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Taiwan Issue, Core of Sino-Japanese Relations: Experts
Some Chinese scholars, when analyzing current and future Sino-Japanese relations, believe that the Taiwan question will probably become the main stumbling block to the further development of the two countries' relationship.

One of their reasons for believing this is that Japanese officials have never directly recognized that Taiwan is part of China. The 1972 Sino-Japanese Joint Statement says that the Japanese Government fully "understands and respects" the stance of the Chinese Government on the Taiwan question, which is that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China.

Taking this vague stance of Japan in conjunction with its San Francisco Peace Pact -- which says that Japan abandons all territorial claims to Taiwan and the Penghu islands (Pescadores) -- and the so-called Taiwan-Japan Peace Pact, which makes a similar statement on the Taiwan question, it is apparent that the Japanese Government intends to adhere to the theory of unsettled Taiwanese sovereignty.

Furthermore, considering that influential Japanese politicians continually say in public speeches that Taiwan's future should be decided by the people of Taiwan, Chinese scholars have many reasons to doubt whether Japan has given up its ambition for Taiwan.

In fact, between China and Japan, there should be no territorial question over the ownership of Taiwan.

During World War II, the Allied powers committed themselves in the Cairo Declaration of 1943 to restoring to China all the territories Japan had seized from the Chinese -- such as Manchuria (Northeast China), Taiwan and the Pescadores (Penghu islands). This was reaffirmed in the Potsdam Proclamation of 1945. Japan later officially expressed its acceptance of the Cairo Declaration in writing after it surrendered to the Allied forces. With the signing of the instrument of surrender by the then Taiwan Governor Ando Toshiyoshi, the representative of the Japanese Government, Taiwan was returned to China de jure and de facto after 50 years of colonial rule by Japan.

The San Francisco Peace Pact itself does not contradict this established fact and therefore cannot provide grounds for the theory of the unsettled ownership of Taiwan, not to mention the fact that this pact is not recognized as legal and valid by China.

The government of the People's Republic of China replaced the Kuomintang government of the Republic of China in 1949 and has been the only legitimate government representing all the Chinese people ever since. In 1971, it took back its legal seat in the United Nations as the sole representative of China, replacing the so-called Republic of China based in Taiwan. It is already the consensus of the international community that the People's Republic is the only sovereign state representing China.

Undoubtedly, the sovereignty of Taiwan and its neighboring islands, which were given to the then Republic of China by Japan in 1945, has been succeeded by the People's Republic. Hence, the theory of unsettled ownership of Taiwan advocated by some people in Japan is completely groundless.

As a matter of fact, the precondition of normalizing Sino-Japanese relations, as the late Premier Zhou Enlai noted, was that Japan must recognize that Taiwan is part of China, namely the People's Republic.

Pushed by the thawing of Sino-US relations, Japan restored its diplomatic relations with the People's Republic earlier than Washington by saying that the Japanese Government "fully understands and respects" China's stance that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People's Republic.

However, the real meaning of "fully understands and respects" could only be found from irrefutable historical profiles.

Recently, the Japanese Government declassified and disclosed all its records of negotiations for the normalization of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations 30 years ago, which provide the possibility of further understanding this expression.

The core question for the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries is how Japan treats Taiwan. This is made clear by the diplomatic records as well as the three principles put forward by the Chinese Government. These three principles state that the People's Republic's government is the sole legal government representing the Chinese people; Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory and has been returned to China; and the Japan-Taiwan Treaty is illegal, invalid and must be abrogated.

Despite the divergence on this question among Japan's rulers, the then newly elected Prime Minister Kakei Tanaka, together with then Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira, expressed their understanding of China's three principles. No country has maintained relations with Taiwan since establishing diplomatic relations with the People's Republic, and Tanaka said that Japan should not be an exception to this.

Tanaka and Ohira came to Beijing in September 1972 to start negotiations with the People's Republic government. At the first meeting of Sino-Japanese foreign ministers on the day after their arrival, the Japanese side expressed their stance on the Taiwan question. This could be outlined as: 1. Japan still recognizes that, according to the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation, Taiwan has been returned to China; 2. Japan completely respects China's consistent one-China stance and has no intention of letting Taiwan become Japanese territory or supporting Taiwan independence; 3. Taiwan is now under the control of a regime different from the People's Republic's government and the Taiwan question should be solved as an internal affair by the Chinese themselves. According to the records, Japan also said that the expression "fully understands and respects" is a simplified expression of Japan's above-mentioned stance.

During the fourth summit meeting, Ohira, in his prepared speech, explained Japan's policy on the Taiwan question. He said that Japan would abolish its official relations with Taiwan as a result of the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations and the Japanese Government would neither adopt the stance of "two Chinas" in the future nor harbor ambitions for Taiwan or support Taiwan independence.

With the solution of the Taiwan question, relations between China and Japan were normalized.

In the following 30 years, Japan basically has kept its word and only maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan.

During his 1997 visit to China, the then Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto reiterated in his speech that Japan would continue to abide by the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement and the Sino-Japanese Peace and Friendship Treaty and that Japan would not support any "two Chinas" theory or Taiwan independence. The 1998 Sino-Japanese Joint Declaration also makes clear that Japan will maintain its stance on the Taiwan question as expressed in the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement.

The promise made by the Japanese Government 30 years ago on the Taiwan question has been a cornerstone in the development of bilateral relations for three decades. This cornerstone should not be changed. Otherwise, the development of Sino-Japanese relations in the coming years will be negatively affected.

The realization of Chinese reunification will contribute to stability and prosperity in Asia as a whole, from which Japan would benefit. The mentality whereby maintaining the status quo of the Taiwan Straits is the most favorable for Japan's development has no validity.

(The writer is the director of the Institute of Japanese Studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)

(People's Daily August 5, 2002)

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